APAXTLA, Mexico – Hundreds of inhabitants of San Felipe del Ocote in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero have been displaced by the violence in their community, and have no wish to return there for fear of further attacks.
Local residents fled from their homes after an attack by a group of armed men who arrived “shooting at the people,” one of the locals, Juvenal Moreno, told EFE.
On previous occasions, the criminals had shown up in this southern community but without attacking them. “For that reason we put up with the situation” and never filed a complaint with the authorities, he said.
Now those people are staying at Apaxtla, seat of the like-named municipality, waiting for the authorities to tell them where to relocate.
A total of 415 people have been uprooted by the violence. According to a census taken by the municipality, 335 of them have found shelter in Apaxtla.
The other 80 inhabitants remained in San Felipe under official protection, gathering up the belongings of the people and stripping the kernels off the corn grown by local farmworkers in order to have something to eat.
Moreno, who abandoned his home and land, said that “we can’t go back,” because “those who return won’t be found alive.”
He said he hopes to recover his belongings from the community “if that’s possible, and if it’s not, everything will be lost.”
He said that later he hopes the authorities will help the group find new homes.
“I don’t have courage, just fear,” Juvenal admitted, adding that the situation of violence in the area has been building up for approximately seven years.
According to Esau Martinez, president of the National System for Integral Family Development of Apaxtla, “the majority don’t want to go back – they left everything there, they left their roots, their whole lives.”
He added that the small farmers are “worried because they left behind their crops and their animals – cows, poultry, pigs – they lost everything.”
To aid the refugees, the state government has sent helicopters with clothes, food, bottled water, plus cleaning products to care for the shelter.
Guerrero is considered one of Mexico’s most violent states. Without yet knowing the figures for December, the region in 2017 had some 2,100 homicides and 62 kidnappings, according to the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System.